Tuesday, October 25, 2005

V for...Victory?

Today my new driver's license came, and with it Alabama's permission for me to operate a boat on state waters. Like sailing on a windy day, the process had its ups and downs. Getting a water craft license involves a class and a test before the license is granted. The class and test are conveniently available online- surprisingly efficient and modern for the Heart of Dixie. So with the boating experience I already have, I was able to skim through the course and take the test online ($15) in a couple of hours. What followed totally negated the convenience of the online certification. After a few days, a boating safety certificate arrived in the mail, with instructions to take it to a drivers license facility where the appropriate mark would be placed on my drivers license. Fine.

My first trip, I show up to the local Shelby County DMV building, expecting to wait in the line for license plates and titles. This is the line that moves much faster than the line to take the actual drivers exams, which is not so much a line as a room packed full of surly and sullen 16-year-olds and their parents. Much to my shock, I found that I had to go into that very line to get my boat certificate "verified" before I could return to the faster license line. I took a number and waited for it to be called. After an hour of waiting, I projected my wait time to be on the order of months, so I left with a plan to return when school was back in session.

Many weeks later I returned, making sure to get in line very early. I managed to snag the third place in line, so that when the doors opened, I was in the first batch of people who's numbers was called. At that point I witnessed a study in bureaucratic inefficiency and teen psychology. There was only one examiner, a young woman with the beaten down demeanor of one who has dealt with nervous teens and impatient parents. Of course, the first girl she sat down to fill out the paperwork was missing some form or another of required ID. So they continued with the paperwork and eye exam while the mother rushed home to get it. Next was a monosyllabic boy who didn't know his street address. Apparently the family had just moved, and dad had to be called in to solve the mystery. Then--hallelujah!-- it was my turn.

What I thought was going to be a quick visual check turned out to be the same paperwork that the teens went through, without the eye exam. So the proper form was filled out ($5, cash only) to verify the certificate the same state had sent me only weeks before. Only then was I approved to go across the hall, and have my picture taken for a new license ($18, check o.k.) And that was three weeks ago. Today, the new license arrived, with the newly embossed "V" added to signify that I may now operate "vessels" in Alabama waters. Time spent? 4 hours. Cost? $38. All for the coveted V.


Anonymous Richard said...

I also took the exam online (paid my $15), went down to the courthouse, paid more money (cash only...felt like I was paying off some guard in a Turkish prison) and more money to get a new driver's license and my own V on it. What a scam!

10:26 AM  
Blogger a Carrie said...

Did you see Bouffont Betty while you were at the DMV?

8:52 AM  

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